The Biography of Chicago’s Marina City

Bertrand Goldberg, architect
October 8, 1997

Bertrand Goldberg. Photo by Torkel Korling (1952). “With his rumpled hair and simmering eyes, his tweed jackets and stylish shirts, and his courtly, genteel air – now impish, now prickly – Mr. Goldberg often seemed more of a poet than an architect. He was once described as a humanist whose medium happened to be architecture.”

– Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune, October 9, 1997

(Left) Bertrand Goldberg in 1952, photographed by Torkel Korling.

Bud died on October 8, 1997.

He had suffered a stroke. There were complications, and he died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago at the age of 84.

Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin wrote the next day, “Goldberg’s significance transcended architecture. In the 1950s, when there was widespread pessimism about the future of cities as places to live, Mr. Goldberg posed a vital alternative with the five-building Marina City complex.”

Bertrand Goldberg was born in Chicago on July 17, 1913, and grew up in the Hyde Park neighborhood. He studied at Harvard University and the Staatliches Bauhaus, an art and architecture school in Germany that was an influence on Modernist architecture. During that time, he worked in the office of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, considered one of Modern architecture’s pioneering masters.

In 1933, after lecturing his landlady on the evils of Nazism, Goldberg, who was Jewish, was asked to leave Berlin. Back in Chicago, he finished his studies at Armour Institute, now known as Illinois Institute of Technology. Goldberg worked briefly for architects George and Fred Keck before starting his own practice in 1937.

His many influences included the 1933 Century of Progress International Exposition, held to commemorate Chicago’s 100th anniversary, which featured modern, streamlined architecture in contrast with what he had studied in Germany.

His son, Geoffrey, says there was a poetic relationship between his father and Lillian H. Florsheim, the sculptor and mother of Nancy Goldberg. He believes another artistic influence was Bertrand’s sister, Lucille Strauss, who was an actress in the 1930s.

Goldberg designed single-family homes, an ice cream store, gas station, prefabricated bathrooms, a theater, and hospitals. Besides Marina City, his major works included Astor Tower, Raymond Hilliard Center, Prentice Women’s Hospital, and River City. His last major project that was built was Chicago’s Wright College, completed in 1992.

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